Running Tech - Friend or Foe?
Off with the GPS watch, on with the old Casio and out the door for a run. I am sure we have all been there, or in a similar position at some point. Returning from injury, don't want to be judged on that popular orange social training app or just haven't run in a while and want to avoid comparison to former glory!
Running tech is all around, do you embrace it fully, somewhat or not at all? Let's take a look at some areas of running tech along with my experience and thoughts on them.
GPS Watches, seems a good start.
There is a very strong chance that if you are reading this, you own or even possibly are wearing a GPS watch right now. They are probably the most abundant obvious tech a runner will own, aside from shoes, but that is for later.
The GPS watch started off as a simple and convenient way to record time, distance and speed. Sadly early on you were not able to share these efforts so prolifically, and someone would have to give you an actual thumbs up if you were seeking one! Very useful, none the less. However, now they are incredible wearables. Becoming a 24/7 smart watch, not just a bulky GPS unit you put on for your running.
Tracking your runs aside I think that these watches are a great training tool, and I don't mean by giving you real time pace or counting your reps for you. I think they are able to train you to understand your body. Run at a given effort enough times whilst achieving a target heart rate, eventually you will have less need to check your wrist every 20 seconds. Likewise for running pace, you will understand effort relating to pace with more confidence. I imagine this could also be learned through other methods of trial and error or carefully measured circuits like a track, but this brings a real convenience to learning your body. Ultimately, understanding that will edge you closer to consistent positive training and improved performances… and more kudos.
Even when you kick off your carbon shoes (still not going there quite yet) after a hard workout where you can now see pace, distance, HR, left/right balance, cadence, vertical oscillation and much more, these wearables do not stop. With greater and greater accuracy they are now tracking HR throughout the day, down to every 1second, movements, stress, sleep and HRV among an array of other things. Now, you may just start your workout regardless as we are mostly on confined schedules and if we don't train Tuesday evening then when do we get that workout in? Sure, you may ignore the advice from your little wrist based buddy but at least expectations can be set. All that data trending the wrong way? Dial your session back, ease in to it or move the focus slightly from something gruelling to something more achievable.
All in all, they’re a friend. They learn from you every second of the day. And even if you choose not to listen, at least they can give some friendly advice back to you in their data! Failing that, they are pinpoint accurate now so you can follow in the footsteps of those who didn't have such tech and then add a few more footsteps as it was invariably not quite as long as expected… who said that?!
I am currently running with a Garmin Forerunner 965, and thinking back to my first Garmin Forerunner 305 it is an incredible evolution of tech.
Ok, next stop. Shoes. They're a friend for sure! Now we have all heard the arguments over and over again. If you have listened to particular TV pundits of late you may be excused in thinking they've been left on repeat! Carbon shoes are here, they're likely not going anywhere and anyone can have them. Do they make you directly faster? Possibly. Do they meet their claim of making you more economical? Certainly so as studies confirm. Do they make you cry when you have to buy a new pair? Definitely. So how do you use them?
Race day. For sure. Stick them on, along with your best kit, cleanest socks and a fresh haircut. You'll feel good, look good and run a PB… I mean, you may not but let's be positive about it. This is what they were created for, those big efforts that require you to pull every level you can for precious seconds.
Training, now how much do you want to run in your expensive, short life super shoes? I will confess to putting these on for bigger workouts that I feel, for whatever reason, matter to me. Key workouts, confidence boosters or final prep. Running as best you can for the lowest effort possible is surely good for mind and body.
Now, do you need them for every single workout? Long run? Easy run? Likely not, much like your best half tights or lightest singlet. Some things can still have their moment and shine on race day!
So you hear at NoblePro wondering how we have not hopped on to the treadmill subject yet! Well wait no longer, here it is. Now although treadmill is the official name I am sure you are aware of the dreadmill or the shedmill. Giving them a less glamourous image. Ok, so running on the spot getting overly sweaty trying to use a touch screen to start the next episode of your series as you can't wait another 7 seconds for it to move on itself isn't super flashy.
That aside, surely this is your friend, an obstacle free rolling road with as many streaming services as you can borrow log ins for! They are super convenient, always hit the pace you need and I know you are all hardy athletes but it is nice not to run into the wind and rain isn't it? Yep.
At home we are fortunate enough to have a Noble Pro Elite and it has been a real blessing. I have frequently run side by side with my wife, Rhiannon, as she logs up yet more KMs and QOMs on Zwift. I have hopped on for a fast workout during my lunch break from work and I have dodged the wind and rain once or twice… ok, anytime there is bad weather really! And with a little baby on the way I am sure it will continue to provide us access to convenient running and training. If this is your friend, then you need the true friend of a friend, a fan. A bloody big one!
Apps, you know where this starts. Strava. It is likely on most runners phone. Whether they are secret users who share nothing but cannot go a day without snooping on everyone else or the most open users, it is there! Running can be a lonely sport, not always but often it is. This uses simple modern day tech to make that a little more sociable and interactive. You can dish out kudos for fat runs, long runs or accidental 2 second games of pickleball as they fumble with their watch early in a morning. You can follow your neighbour, your friends, celebrities and pros or anyone who will accept you! It's fun, typically harmless and my biggest use of it is finding new routes or confirming a route I have planned is actually a runnable route and not a British "footpath".
When running isn't going so well, this is likely one of the first bits of tech to be manipulated or to go dark. You've chased one too many segments on your "recovery jog", you are having a slow day and don't want it to be seen, you had a personal stop so your elapsed time may be judged or you are back from injury and want to take it very carefully without people peering in to your jogging soul. This is mostly a friend though, it is fun, simple and you can share pictures. Just be careful with this one at times.
The apps don't stop at Strava, another that I use frequently is Kinni. This is a fantastic app that partners seamlessly with my Noble Pro treadmill. I can build a workout on it, link it to my treadmill and then all I have to worry about is running, drinking and if I will run out of sport to watch. The support here is growing, more and more treadmills are supported and likely your local gym will have one that is. There is a small subscription cost but as we hit the winter months my treadmill time increases and it becomes more worthwhile for sure.
So, as it turns out, we are all friends here. Who'd have thought it. I enjoy running tech, running as a whole languishes a little behind other sports that fully embrace it like cycling, but overall if you can utilise it then it can aid performance. For those juggling day to day life it can provide convenience such as a treadmill or safety such as LiveTrack on your Garmin to keep you in touch with others. If you want to run phone free it you can even store your favourite playlist of podcast right on your wrist now!
I hope that you embrace it a little too, learn about your body and enjoy your training. If all else fails, just get some carbon shoes… ;)